AM On The Oscars: Talk Is Great, Action Is Better

Above: Chris Rock had a lot to say about the #OscarsSoWhite controversy during his opening monologue at the 2016 Academy Awards
AM On The Oscars Talk Is Great Action Is Better

Throughout the night, the racial issue plaguing the Oscars and Hollywood in general was a recurring theme. From Chris Rock’s opening monologue to quality fake movie clips and one dreadful Stacey Dash cameo, Sunday night’s 88th Annual Academy Awards was a night to make it clear to Hollywood that everyone is aware of the issue.

That part is great – speaking about the problem in public is a positive step – but the key going forward is to actually do something about it and that doesn’t just mean having token nominees of colour every year the way the NFL forces franchises to interview minority candidates via The Rooney Rule.

Hollywood needs to find a way to give minorities more of an opportunity to show their abundant talents. Across the board – writers, directors, producers, actors – there needs to be a change from seeing skin colour and gender to recognizing and rewarding talent.

Roles should be written with neutrality, keeping them open to everyone. Stereotypes need to be broken. Race and gender need to be taken out of the equation entirely.

If that doesn’t happen, a lot of this will be for naught. The boycott, the discussions, the jokes and on-stage shaming from Sunday night will be hollow because nothing will have changed and we’ll be back to talking about all of this again next year and the year after that and so on and so forth.

Native actors need to be cast in non-native roles. Black actors need to be more than athletes, criminals, rappers or the sassy best friend. Black filmmakers need to be afforded the opportunity to make more than just the next black movie.

A bunch of Caucasian actors shouldn’t be playing the majority of the roles in Gods of Egypts, since, you know, it’s set in Egypt and based on gods that didn’t look like Jaime Lannister. That should be obvious, but apparently it wasn’t. Until it is, Hollywood will always have the same problems.

And studios need to take chances on non-white stories.

Nothing against David O. Russell and Jennifer Lawrence, but how does a semi-fictional portrayal of the woman that invented the Miracle Mop get all kinds of attention from studios while innumerable important stories of leaders, politicians and influential people from other walks of life go overlooked or unmade?

If the argument is that those stories will only appeal to certain audiences, make a good movie and the audience will find it.

It was great to have Rock put a spotlight on the current hot topic in Hollywood and hopefully it leads to honest discussions about the issue. But unless it also leads to meaningful changes in the way the entire process works, all the jokes will have been pointless.

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